View Thread > Development and the Internet > Policy - Question 2 > I agree
The Internet is frequently cited as having developed so successfully because it was totally unregulated. Long, slow legislative and regulatory procedures are said to be antithetical to free and fast-moving technical development where only the fittest survive. Is this a fair assessment? What are the real costs to the entire nation of the technical and market failures that litter such unregulated markets? What about the non-commercial needs of citizens (privacy, consumer protection, security from crime) that might be sacrificed on the altar of innovation? Do existing laws provide sufficient protection or must new ones be created? Are there any good examples of laws that are truly "technologically neutral"?
I regret having insufficient time to study this week’s unit fully and properly consider all these thought provoking questions.
It would seem that long slow legislative regulatory procedures would be likely to stifle creativity and innovation. (How do you legislate for what has not been fully experienced or even imagined?) Also there are problems of national/international law – what applies where etc. Yet there are many benefits of a regulatory framework.
What are legal frameworks for? Presumably so that parties entering into agreement about goods/services/whatever can be clear about the nature of the contract they have made, and feel confident that it will be fulfilled as expected by all concerned. This is not just the obvious transaction such as buying goods, but all the other more invisible issues of data-protection, privacy etc. There are good reasons for having laws – but only if they are ‘the right laws’ and how is that to be decided?
Maybe we need to understand better what we are doing and trying to do before we lay down too many laws about it.
Also before we legislate we need to look very carefully at cultural assumptions. For example http://www.developmentgateway.org/node/130622/ raises issues about Intellectual Property Rights and cultures that regard knowledge as communally owned.
The Internet is global in its reach – so the ethics of its legal framework need close scrutiny. Are laws that are being proposed ‘good’ laws from everyone’s viewpoint or do they simply protect the status quo, or vested interests, or particular cultural expectations?
I agree with Pam: the implementation of laws should be approached with due care and attention to the implict assumptions within those laws and whether those assumptions are valid and/or useful for the adopting country.
Yet at the same time, as our readings indicate, I also believe that, in order to receive the most benefit from ICT development, national policies should conform as much as possible to global norms. And in fact, the existence of global norms and existing legislation could allow some of the newer participants to (here comes the dread word) 'leapfrog' over some of the sausage making process that has taken so much time for the early innovators.
So this perhaps underlines, as discussed in the first module, the importance for all nations to participate and to have a voice in international standards bodies--and that those same bodies might wish to have their own MSP to be sure that the needs of the globally disadvantaged (women, children, ill , disabled) are at least considered.
In 1881, patent holders got together in Paris to set international standards for electricity. While universal standards are necessary for sustained growth of an industry, I am not convinced in the viability of any international agreement to be continuous and accepted universally. International presumes nation-states; entities that may not continue to exist for more than a mere historical nanosecond.
Perhaps the importance lies with the inventors' view of their role in setting standards. This, of course, implies cooperation rather than competition. Laws and standards exist as conventions that build social organization. Georgraphical entities existing as nation-states are entitled to pass their own, and they are also likely to protect their own trade balance with the other nation-states.
What must happen to ensure universal standards certainly hasn't happened in any other area of social conventions, such as time or currency. Global norms are at best fiction; at worst fantasy.
I have a great deal of respect for the foresight of the electrical patent holders and their prescience regarding the need for cooperation.
"The Internet is global in its reach" is the key point. The recent events (I don't want to start a political controverse) have proven that global organizations are not a suitable solution in many situations. Reason range from conflicts of interests to bureaucracy. So, a global organization which could build a legal framework for the Internet is out of the question.
It has been said that the Internet has only two phases: too early to tell and too late to do anything about it. Indeed it does seem that the pace of technology and our understanding of it is out of step with our regulatory processes. But does this mean that we should abandon the project of Internet regulation altogether or only seek to develop laws that are technologically neutral? I think not. Perhaps what is needed is new regulatory processes that can respond more quicky to advances in technologies and laws that are more specific/tailored to the unique characteristics of new technologies as they emerge.
I agree with Pam's comment that some regulation of the Internet is desirable. I also agree that regulation, to be effective, will often need to be global. We are then faced with the problem of either finding ways to create borders on the Net or finding a consenus among nations. The US often takes the lead on global regulation of the internet either through happenstance (e.g. ICANN) or through international agreements (TRIPS), but what this means for the sovereignty of other nations should be questioned. The cultural assumptions that are implicit in US IP laws, which are globally imposed through TRIPS, are apposite.
Further, we must recognize that there is really no such thing as a technologically neutral law. Laws neutral on their face are rarely neutral in their application. Again IP laws are a good example - despite language which suggests that they apply regardless of the medium, when traditional IP laws are in practice applied to digital technolgies and the Internet, the unintended consequence is to undercut fair use and radically shift the original copyright balance (in favor of the copyright holder). In this way, technologically neutral laws may be dangerous - perhaps we should strive for just the opposite i.e. technologically tailored laws that cause us to think through the appropriate policy anew for major new technologies that fundamentally change the landscape in unpredictable ways. For another example of the danger of technologically neutral laws in the privacy context, see http://www.it.kth.se/~aep/PhD/docs/paper6-acm-1905-reviewed_20021022.pdf.